Never Forget Family

I came across a picture of myself when I was about eleven years old. I remember where it was taken, and if it were not for a date stamp on the edge of the picture I wouldn’t know the month and the year. I remember the day of the week it was taken, but I don’t remember the date of the month. I remember the building and city, but I don’t remember the address. I remember the smallest boy in the picture, but I’m struggling to remember the name of the other guy. As I recall, we had a good relationship. The smile on my face would seem to indicate that, but his name escapes me. The reason why it does is because I have not had anything to remember him for.

I believe that his name is Terry, but I couldn’t solemnly affirm that name as being correct. We have not maintained contact with each other over the years. As we stood on the steps of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Galena, Kansas, I embraced him as my friend. Yet, the one person in the picture that is most memorable to me is my little brother. He’s the little guy on my left, frowning up his face and looking like the brightness of the sun is so agonizing.

My brother doesn’t look enamored by our photo opportunity, but he is the one that I had to keep an eye on. I didn’t really want that responsibility, but that is the charge given to me by my parents. There is no doubt in my mind that my parents felt that I was to be my brother’s keeper when he could not adequately take care of himself. I’m over seven years older than he is, and watching him was an unwanted burden. Yet, my responsibility led to a closeness that will never be broken.

We don’t talk all the time, but every once in a while, he will call me. Both of us are grown up and have taken separate ways in life, but the fact that we are family has made us aware of our relationship. We have both made mistakes in life, but that has not destroyed our relationship or love for each other. My little brother looks up to me, and he knows that I will do whatever I can to keep him safe and secure within the precepts of our parents, especially our daddy.

As I reflect upon our relationship, I am reminded of my relationship with Jesus. Our heavenly father gave him a charge long ago to watch over his little brother. I know that I have gotten on his nerves, and he may have become weary of my needing to be rescued from problems that I foolishly created. Even though he gives grace to every human being in the world, he never forgets family. I’m not one who consistently follows the instructions of my father in heaven, but I have a big brother who keeps a watchful eye out for me. He has done everything necessary for me to maintain my relationship with him.  All I have to do is to look up to him, hang around with him, and learn from him because he never messes up.

 

By minrjt51

Stay Focused

As I embark upon yet another attempt to secure another degree, I must remember to stay focused. There is so much that tugs at my attention. I still have several jobs that I must care for: the university, church, convention, district, and family. The key to my successful completion of this degree will be my staying focused. It is like juggling.
I have a set of juggling balls, but I have never learned how to juggle. No, they just sit there in the package looking at me each time I enter my workroom. I oftentimes look back at them, but they are far from my mind. It is not necessary to learn how to juggle those balls when I have so much other stuff to juggle. It is the other things that comprise important things in my life. None of them must fall by the wayside and be shattered as they go down.
My education bill has been paid. I don’t want to waste my money again. The school was kind enough to give me credit for previously paid tuition and a discount for paying in full. Now it is up to me to stay on track, but I am already having trouble staying focused. This time, however, my approach is different. I am more focused. But I must also create a written plan of study, a schedule. I can’t just buy the books and let them sit around. Too much lies at stake this time. I am older and wiser. I will finish the good work that has been started in my heart. While I am tempted to quit because of the problems that have surfaced in my life, I will stay the course and cross the finish line, even if it is on my knees. Oh, what a place to be!

By minrjt51

Going Through the Storm

As I complete this article, my mind is spinning so fast with so much concern that I feel like I’m in a tornado. Tornadoes are so destructive whenever they drop down from the sky above. The not only destroy property, they also take the lives of those who are not adequately prepared for the onslaught that the storm carries. I feel like I haven’t adequately prepared for this storm that is raging around me right now. It is taking a huge toll on my personal psyche, and I am struggling to make it through the storm. There is only one thing that is keeping me moving ahead: my faith in God.

As tornadoes wreak havoc in the serene creation that God created, I am also reminded that God is the one who can control the storm. Nothing in creation exists except God made it. Howard Thurman said, “At the core of life is a hard purposefulness, a determination to live.” He also spoke of the juxtapositions of life that can seem to be so unfair, especially when we focus on the negative side of creation. Where there is love, we must also look for hatred rear its ugly head. Where there is peace, we will invariably encounter confusion and chaos. Where there is joy, we must come to appreciate and expect sadness. Why? Because our faith seems to be under constant trial and assault for the counterpart to the creator God. Lucifer, Satan, the devil is always busy.

God is a shelter in the time of storm; a very present help in the time of trouble. It is just as easy to turn away from the Lord as it is to turn to him if you don’t belong to him. However, when you are confident in your relationship, you can say with Job, “Even if I die, I will trust in him.” The storm will not last always, and the calm is truly more appreciated when you consider the alternative.

By minrjt51

Joy to the World?

Somewhere in the world, there is someone who is filled with despair and distress. They are searching frantically for some semblance of peace from the events and environment in which they find themselves. Their hearts are longing for rest from the torrent of misfortune that beset them like a flood of water. They are struggling to stay afloat as the wind and the waves toss them to and fro like leaves on the surface of a rushing stream. The song that fills their mind is not one of joy, but of misery and sorrow. The blues are an appropriate descriptor of their melody. Gloom and misery are their companions as they look furtively for a glimmer of hope.

I can imagine that the people of God who lived in our world about two thousand years ago were feeling the very same way. While there were no bombs exploding around them, they probably felt that their world was in a shambles. Their cry was for relief from the troubles that had haunted their existence for so long. They listened for a word from the God that they had turned away from to chase after their own whims. His voice had been silent for far too long for them to have joy in their hearts.

Yet, into the darkness of their lives, a bright light appeared. Fear crowded its way into their hearts next to the despair that was already there. What now? It was the soothing voice of the messenger of God that quashed their fears. The message was of good tidings and a declaration of great joy. Their cries had been heard, and God had sent relief. A Savior had been born in the city of David. They were given specific instructions to follow and things to look for as they sought the one they had long awaited.

Joy is a challenge again as we look at our world. Life seems to have little value and love has truly become elusive. While some are hoarding blessings, others are searching for crumbs of sustenance. Economic troubles are worldwide. No place is a haven from the threat of maniacal humanbeings bent on changing the world to their ideology. Those who are charged with protecting the innocent are guilty of inflicting hurt and pain upon the unwary. Those who are willing to survive on the least of possessions find it difficult to make ends meet. Again, there is a need for the Lord to intervene and interject some hope into the hearts of His people.

Dear Father in Heaven, we need the manifestation of your presence so that there may be some joy in the world for those who trust in you. Please come quickly.

 

By minrjt51

Don’t Be Overconfident In Yourself.

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:30-31).

This passage of scripture reminds me of a sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that was delivered by Jonathan Edwards back in the 18th century. While many of us who believe in the living God are experiencing the joy of withheld judgment from God, many of these believers are more confident in and dependent upon their own goodness and works than they are grateful for the magnificent mercy of God. Thus is the nature of the blessing of God, it seems, upon the United States of America.

While many of the leaders of the United States stand as judges over what they perceive to be heathen nations around our world, they fail to see their own shortcomings. Many church leaders are confident that the grace of God is sufficient to save the worst of sinners from the judgment of God, they stand as blind leaders of the blind, unable to see their own erroneous ways and continually leading a blind cohort of followers who have listened to and put their trust in the voice of sinful men and women rather than follow the voice of the one God whose love and judgment were demonstrated upon the hill of Calvary.

It is clear that God allowed Jesus to die for the sins of humankind; however, there is no license for humanity to continue in sin while we wait for the final judgment to appear. We must recall the the words of God that indicate that He will judge His people. It is possible for people to delude themselves into being overconfident because God has not released the hand of the enemy against us. The lack of immediacy of God’s execution of the sentence for sin creates a false security and bold, yet unwise, actions based in beliefs that are contrary to the will of God. The failure to experience God’s final condemnation does not negate the need to love and obey the will of God.

The same God that gives us grace, whose mercies are made new each morning, also waits patiently for the day when His wrath shall be revealed against a sinful, unloving, and merciless humankind. Just as forgiving, loving, and merciful as God is, so is the extent of His wrath. This is the revelation made to the writer of Hebrews. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of an angry, living God. It is wiser to judge ourselves and our actions than to wait for the wrath of God to be revealed against us. If we can find even the hint of sin in our hearts, we would do well to extricate it from our souls and turn toward God with brokenness and contrition rather than haughtiness and pride. Again, recall, “God gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud.”

By minrjt51

Dejavu: Starting All Over Again

The movie Dejavu starring Denzel Washington is the portrayal of a man that traveled back in time to save the life of someone he had come to love, an innocent victim of a man who plotted to blow up a ferry that had soldiers and their families on it. The scheme had been carried out just as the man had planned, but the good guys had discovered a way to travel back in time and change the sequence of events that led to the tragedy. Just think what our world would be like if we all thought of ways to preserve life rather than to take it.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and said, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if [you have] any comfort from his love, if [you have] any common sharing in the Spirit, if [you have experienced] any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (2:1-2). Many in our world have not heard of or believed in the person of Christ; therefore, it is difficult for this sameness to take place. However, it is not impossible. Those of us who profess to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ have the precious treasure of God’s loving message in us. This love is far too great and gracious for us to keep to ourselves. We need to share the good news of God’s unfailing love by living it on a daily basis. Let us join our hearts and minds together and stop all the hating and submit humbly to the image of Jesus who humbled himself to death and experienced the power of resurrection rooted in the love of God for all of us, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could return to the innocence that existed before the first man rebelled against God? We can return and do return as we submit to the Lordship of the Christ.

By minrjt51

My Return to Writing

It has been months since my last post to this blog. A lot has transpired in my life since the last article. This has become a relief to my mind and a solace for my soul. It helps me to get my thoughts together and move toward my goal of completing my doctoral studies. There is a lot of reading and writing associated with my coursework, and I have got to make sure that my writing skills are honed to be the best that they can be.

I have come to understand the importance of getting my thoughts down on paper and organizing them into some semblance of order before I start to make my first draft. This is so different from my past behavior where I just started to type my work and hardly ever went back to read the whole document. Now, I see the reason for review before final publication. It is a far better product when I take my time and think about what I want to say and the best way to say it.

I hope to write with regularity, daily, if possible. God blesses me each and every day, and I plan to make sure that I let others know about my blessings. While my life is fraught with challenges to my faith, they come into my life to make me stronger and able to persevere through the storms. I truly say to the Lord, “My faith looks up to thee, Thou lamb of Calvary, Savior Divine. Now hear me while I pray. Take all my guilt away. Now let me from this day be wholly thine.”

I have been cared for by the Lord all of my life, and I will let Him continue to do so because he is surely able to do so. I know that I can truly cast all my care on Him because He cares for me more that He does the grasses of the fields, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the earth. God is good.

By minrjt51
Image

cropped-20121214_182324896_ios.jpgBelieve it of not, there’s a hole in this tree. It is the strangest thing that I have ever seen in my life. Right there next to the trunk, two limbs have merged. The branch that they created seems to be strong and healthy. While other limbs that are single in their growth have begun to deteriorate and break, these two merged members of the tree seem to be flourishing. All of that exists on the same tree.

I encourage you to think with me about how our world is splintered, fractured, segmented, dissociated, and unfriendly. There is an attitude of tolerance by some toward others, while animosity and antagonism is demonstrated in the attitude and actions of others. Militant, terroristic groups are forming alliances everyday, and they are plotting and scheming to disrupt any kind of peace that may be forming in the world. It’s not enough for them to fight among themselves and leave other out of the fray. No, they have to recruit others and foment rebellions, coups, and wars that take an undeserved toll on the innocent. There is a proverb that says, “When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.”

Even those who claim to be working for the common good can’t seem to agree what form that good should take and who should be the beneficiaries of the bounty. A house divided against itself cannot stand. There was an article in the New York Times newspaper that said that the city of St. Louis has told a homeless shelter that normally helps up to 300 people a night that they have to curb their assistance to 32 clients by May. The drive to shut down the ministry was led by someone who has the riches of the world at their disposal. Instead of trying to create an alliance of assistance, they want to get rid of the little hope that some of the persons who frequent the shelter have. Not all of the clients of the shelter are drug users, mentally challenged, brawlers, lazy and not wanting to work, or leaches on society. Why not form a coalition of businesses that will give jobs to the poor and needy or a conglomerate of realtors that will help them secure homes for themselves. There are some who need to learn how to take care of themselves. Why not offer some assistance in that area and seek to meet the needs of the needy.

It would be better for those who wish to engage in battle against good in our world to find an island somewhere and take each other out. If that occurred, maybe the rest of the world could come together under a banner of peace and make our world a better place to live. Together, we can make it.

By minrjt51

One More Time

Have you ever had to do something that you really didn’t want to do because you felt that it was wrong? How did you feel when you did it? How much complaining did you do to the person that was making you do it? How did you get yourself to the point where you would go ahead and do what the other person wanted? I’ve reached another point in my life where I have to do something that I don’t want to do, and it’s probably not the last time that it will happen. However, I’m going to do it one more time.

I really want to be considered for the office of President of my state convention, but the whole process is so divisive. We are supposed to be working together, but because anyone who wishes to become the president can just make that announcement and be considered for the position, the constituency will become fragmented and fractured as they are forced to choose sides.

Jesus said, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17, NIV). The ineptitude of the United States Congress over the last two years is a classic example of that statement. Also, the antagonism of the Republican and the Tea parties of America against the popularly elected President, Barack Obama, who is a Democrat have led to national government shutdown and a weakening of our status around the world. The secular procedure of elections has invaded the church in its associational business. The divisiveness of politics has become our way of conducting selection of leaders.

We need to learn the lesson of Israel and what led to its ultimate downfall. Solomon, although he is thought of as the wisest man to ever live, formed alliances with ungodly nations and married women outside the faith of Israel. Because of these acts, God was displeased with Solomon and set about to wrest control of the kingdom from the house of David and divide the nation. While the division did not fully occur during the life of Solomon, it did come to fruition when his son Rehoboam became king. God had raised up an enemy within the court of Solomon named Jeroboam who would become king of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel which would become the nation Israel, while Rehoboam, who rejected the wisdom of God, became the king of one tribe that would become the nation of Judah. The nation was divided because the people were forced to choose between two leaders. This was all because Solomon had formed unholy alliances with human beings.

That is the paradigm in which we will be forced to participate. Alliances have already begun to form as prospective presidential candidates have begun to “campaign” for the office. I don’t want to engage in campaigning because it forces people to divide themselves. Our selection then becomes a popularity contest rather than a providential choice. While I know that I can do the job, this aspect of seeking the office is so distasteful. However, for the sake of at least making myself available to be chosen, I will abdicate to what I don’t want to do one more time.

By minrjt51

How do you free yourself from overload?

I was thinking about how much I have on my plate on a daily basis. I’m not talking about food here, just the amount of activities and jobs that I have allowed to crowd my day. It is sad that I almost don’t have time for the Lord. Gotcha! I said almost, and that does not mean that I let all my busyness infringe upon my time with the Lord.

God is the one in whom time originated. He set it into the proper place in creation and ordered it just so we can have sense enough to know when enough is enough. God is the one that keeps us breathing and wakes us up each day. I always start my day with telling him “Thank you.” However, immediately my mind is moved to what I have to do. It is here that I have to consciously begin to organize my thoughts and toils. So how do I get through the day without stressing myself out too much? It is all a matter of setting priorities and handling what I can.

First, I do my best to prioritize my tasks. I learned that our tasks generally fall into two categories: urgent and important. Within these two categories, I further determine what is urgent and what is important. Everything that I try to do is important. Trivial stuff doesn’t seem to exist for me, so I have to determine what might be urgent. Urgency is determined by deadlines. Is there something that has to absolutely be done today and by a certain time? That is where I place my focus first.

The second thing is to start without delay. I find that I tend to finish what I start. I can be doing two or three things based upon the interruptions that come my way (Yes there can be interruptions), but I generally stay focused enough to finish what I start. I especially like to get the easy stuff out of the way, killing the gnats that would otherwise deter me from my task. I feel better every time I finish something. However, I feel even better when I stay on task despite the interruptions. There can be no finish unless there is a start.

Finally, I try to not accept responsibility for things that are not mine to accomplish. Helping others do what they have to do rather than taking their work upon myself is a great deal more relaxing than the overload. I also have learned to listen to the voice of wisdom saying, “If you have overloaded yourself, humbly ask to be relieved of your obligation.” There is no harm in admitting that you have too much on your plate. On the contrary, there is great harm to you and others when you have so much to do that you struggle to get anything done at all. Let something go and deal with what is left over.

My day goes a great deal better when I prioritize my tasks, finish the easy stuff, get started and stay on task for things that I have to do, and relieve myself of what I don’t absolutely have to do. While I feel guilty about not being able to do many of the things that come my way, I feel great when I accomplish what I set out to do. The world is a much better place when I don’t have it resting on my shoulders.

By minrjt51